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Police in Susan Powell missing case say "50/50" chance remains could be found

Susan Powell
Hardman Photography/Facebook
Susan Powell
Susan Powell
Hardman Photography/Facebook

(CBS/KIRO/AP) JUAB COUNTY, Utah - A search in the Utah desert for missing woman Susan Powell took a strange turn Thursday when the site that authorities said contained human remains turned up no body parts, but a police lieutenant said he thought there was a "50/50" chance Powell's remains could be found there.

Pictures: Missing Utah mother Susan Powell

Cadaver dogs discovered the location this week amid a renewed search for Powell and investigators declared that they had found human remains.

But CBS affiliate KIRO reported that about 2 feet of dirt had been excavated and no bones were found. Police did not say why they earlier stated that they had found human remains when none had actually been found.

"Right now, we haven't found anything except for the scents that these dogs are picking up," West Valley City Police Lt. Bill Merritt told KIRO-TV. "We have not come across bones."

Because the site is on government land, a federal anthropologist was brought in to examine the site Thursday to see if it was part of an ancient burial ground. Investigators then began sifting through what was described as a shallow grave as they searched for clues but had so far found nothing.

Investigators previously said that a federal anthropologist had determined the remains found in a remote area of central Utah were not ancient, but instead were much more recent.

When asked whether he was hopeful Susan Powell's remains would be found there, Merritt called it "50/50 at this point."

Authorities have been searching since Monday in the area near Topaz Mountain in Juab County. The site is about 135 miles southwest of the location where Powell was last seen at her home in West Valley City. It is also just about 30 miles south of where Powell's husband, Josh Powell, told police he took his two young children camping on the night his wife vanished.

Powell was 28 when she was reported missing Dec. 7, 2009, after she failed to show up for her stockbroker job. The case has cast a harsh spotlight on Powell's husband, Josh, who remains the only person of interest but has never been arrested or charged. Josh Powell denies killing his wife or having anything to do with her disappearance.

Complete coverage of the Susan Powell case on Crimesider